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What To Know About Home Theater Aspect Ratios

Aspect ratio refers to the relative shape of the viewing area or screen based on a ratio of width to height. For example, a 1:1 aspect ratio means that for every one unit of horizontal measurement, there is an equal one unit of vertical measurement. The same is true with a 16:9 aspect ratio. With a 16:9 aspect ratio, there are 16 units of horizontal measurement and 9 units of vertical measurement. A 1:1 aspect ratio screen would be as equally wide as it is tall. 16:9 aspect ratios are 16 units of measurement wide and 9 units of measurement tall, creating a cinematic viewing experience. So what aspect ratio should you use for your home theater? We recommend either a 16:9 or a 2.35:1 aspect ratio for your home theater projection screen and we'll tell you why.

What You Need To Know About 16:9 Aspect Ratios

The 16:9 aspect ratios are most popular among home theater viewing applications for several reasons.

16-9-aspect-ratio

For one, modern day HDTV broadcast and home theater cinematic content is mastered in High Definition (HD), meaning that it's aspect ratio is 16:9. 16:9 aspect ratios are also popular because they can accommodate 4:3 (used in business and academic applications) and 2.35:1 (popular in home theater applications) aspect ratios. However, there is a downside to projecting a 2.35:1 image on a 16:9 projection screen, which is that there will be black bars above and below the image. When viewing a 2.35:1 image on a [16:9] screen, you must use black masking on the black bars to make the image look better. This requires additional purchases and installations. However, certain screens, like the Elite Screens VMAX Dual, are designed to fit both aspect ratios and come equipped with the masking you need to make both look great.

16-9-2-35-1-aspect-ratios

Pros:

  • 16:9 is the standard for HDTV broadcasting and many films found in modern day cinema.
  • There are many high quality projectors to choose from that come in a native 16:9 format.
  • There are many 16:9 projection screens on the market to choose from.

 

Cons:

  • Displaying 4:3 aspect ratios on a 16:9 projection screen can appear very small.
  • Many modern films are shot in a cinemascope 2.35:1 aspect ratio, requiring you to mask your 16:9 projection screen.

What You Need To Know About 2.35:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratios

The 2.35:1 aspect ratio, also known as CinemaScope, is also popular among home theater users as well.

2-35-1-aspcet-ratio

2.35:1 was born out of 35mm film and is still very popular among today's digital cinema realm. Because of this, many home theater enthusiasts use 2.35:1 aspect ratio projection screens to emulate the viewing experience of a commercial cinema. One drawback of 2.35:1 aspect ratio is that additional equipment and adapters are needed for the projector in order to be viewed properly. If you plan to use your home theater to primarily watch cinematic films, we would recommend a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. However, if you plan to watch HDTV broadcast television for TV shows or sports games, you may need to compromise and think about a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Pros:

  • The Cinemascope projection screen paired with a projector equipped with the correct lenses to project a Cinemascope image makes for an awesome cinematic viewing experience, similar to the experience found in a commercial movie theater.

Cons:

  • The additional lenses needed to create the Cinemascope image can be costly.
  • You can purchase lower grade adapting lenses, but this may impair the image created by your projector.
  • Masking will be required in the event that you decide to watch HDTV broadcast.

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3 comments


  • You omit that 16:9 looks pretty small on a 2.35:1 screen. I suspect most people feel they get the best bang for their buck by going 16:9 as large as they can (which is 50% of movies and almost all HDTV).

    Bart on

  • You don’t need a lens with 2.35 screen. You can zoom with the projector. If the projector has lens memory this is a breeze and a cheaper route.

    Todd on

  • good insight ! thanks man

    Jonny d on

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